Wine Travel: Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia

If you’re visiting or living in Melbourne, Yarra Valley is only a short drive away. If you don’t have your own car or someone to take you, there are many day trips that you can book from the city. Stop in a travel shop or book a tour online by Googling Yarra Valley Wine Tours and choosing a tour company. You can also stay overnight if you choose.

When I went to Yarra Valley, it was my first Monday in Australia, and it was a gorgeous day. A friend of a friend offered to take us there. He surprised us with our first stop at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. Chocolate and ice cream?! We were SO excited! The drive from Brunswick, north of Melbourne’s Central Business District,  to the chocolaterie took about an hour and twenty minutes.

As you walk inside the chocolaterie, there are metal bins with FREE samples of white, milk, and dark chocolate which you can munch on as you walk around and melt over all the chocolate that’s for sale. We decided to get ice cream. We asked for one scoop and got MASSIVE cones of ice cream. It was a wonderful start to our trip.

After our sugar high, we went to Yarrawood Estate for our first wine tasting. Victoria is known for Pinot Noir, but is also big on Shiraz (the Australian coined term for Syrah) which Yarrawood won an award for with their 2010 vintage. We tasted a few wines in their small tasting room while others dined for lunch on the patio outside. The tasting room has a really wonderful view of the vineyard:

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Domaine Chandon was our second stop. They mainly produce sparkling wine. This winery is actually a chain which originated in Champagne, France, and was called Moët & Chandon. There is also a Domaine Chandon in Napa Valley which was opened more than ten years before this one in Victoria.

Here’s a tip about sparkling wine:

The next time you’re out shopping for some bubbly, notice that the only sparkling wines called Champagne are ones that are made in that region of France. All other bubbly must be labeled “sparkling wine.” Many people call all bubbly Champagne because it is the most recognized name for sparkling wine, but you aren’t actually drinking Champagne unless it is from that region.

The “traditional method” of making sparkling wine is the way that Champagne is made. The Champagne method is meant to be the best, but it is the most time-consuming and costly which is why other, less costly methods are used to add bubbles. The most important way to differentiate between the quality of sparkling wines is how they get their bubbles.

If you don’t want to spring for buying a bottle from the motherland, you can still find a nice bottle made in the traditional method which will have similar taste and appeal (and if you don’t show anyone the label, no one will know the difference).

At the next winery, Oakridge, we tried some of their recent award-winners, including their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The building at Oakridge has a very modern look to it as you can see from the photo of the entrance, below (which I took from Google images, not myself). Most of the wineries are rented out for various events such as weddings, concerts, family parties, etc. They each try to create an ambiance of sophistication which, as you can tell from Oakridge’s unusually modern architecture, is interpreted differently by each winery.

Rochford Wines was our last stop of the day. To be honest, we didn’t have the friendliest hostess there, so it wasn’t the best experience. It was later in the day, pretty close to closing, so that may have been the reason for the lack of welcome we received, but it definitely had an impact on our experience. At that point I was also feeling pretty tipsy, so I don’t recall much about the wines. Chardonnay seems to be their best seller, though.

After the wineries, we wanted to go to White Rabbit Brewery to taste some beers and eat before heading back but they close at 5:00 pm so we didn’t have time. Keep in mind, in most wine regions, wineries and breweries (breweries tend to be open later but check ahead of time since this one wasn’t) close early, usually between 4:00 and 6:00 pm, so you need to get an early start.

Even though we didn’t get to go to the brewery, we did see this unbelievable sunset on our way back to the city:

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Overall, it was a great day. We got so lucky with the weather which was rainy and cooler for weeks after. The best times to go to the wine regions in Victoria are in spring and fall. We went at the end of fall.

I wouldn’t suggest only having only ice cream for lunch as that resulted in us feeling pretty tipsy pretty quickly at the wineries (so have lunch first and THEN enjoy your gigantic ice cream). I’m sure there are lots of great places to eat in the Valley, but I personally don’t have any recommendations for real food.

If you are going for a day trip to any wine region, it is tough to cover a lot of ground, especially if you get a late start. If you want to see more than 4-5 wineries, you should stay over in the region that you’re visiting and take at least two days to tour. If you only have one day, though, and you’re planning the trip yourself (not through a tour), be sure to map out the stops you want to make ahead of time to maximize your experience.

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